To build better bosses, focus on these 3 key areas [new report]
Great bosses are the unsung heroes of small and midsize businesses. They create positive employee experiences that boost worker productivity and performance, which ultimately increases the bottom line. Equally as significant in today’s labor market, the positive experiences that bosses create also support employee satisfaction and drive retention.
Our research indicates CEOs know the value of their bosses and are investing in them accordingly. Employee development, inclusive of leadership development, was revealed as one of the top 10 investments for CEOs in 2022 in our CEO Projections report, and our latest survey shows that 75% of CEOs are directing those funds toward leadership development for bosses.
Given how much the workplace has changed since 2020, developing bosses is critical right now. In fact, no role has experienced more change in the last two years than that of the boss. Our research suggests bosses have encountered the most significant changes within the workplace, culture and accountability practices. Here are key considerations for leadership development in each of those three areas.
Hybrid working is new for all of us — including bosses. Bosses can’t rely on their instincts to lead people in this unfamiliar environment; they need training and development to do so. They also need permission to fail when experimenting with new management approaches.
However, this training and development is complicated by two factors: There’s no tried-and-true way to prepare bosses for hybrid working, and workplace models are continually changing. Moreover, workplace models vary by organization and team. Of the CEOs we recently surveyed, 41% have a fully on-site workforce, while 50% have a hybrid workforce and 6% have a fully remote team.
To account for these differences, small and midsize businesses should emphasize customization when offering development programs, tailoring offerings to the needs of bosses and teams as much as possible. It’s also a good idea to get bosses directly involved in the process. Bosses can help CEOs pinpoint the right workplace model and training based on what they’re hearing from employees. They can also help communicate and enforce new expectations for a new workplace model once it’s implemented.
Note the definition of “hybrid workforce” may vary across organizations. In one organization, for example, hybrid working might mean knowledge workers are at home while frontline workers are in the office. In another organization, it might mean all employees work part time in the office and part time from home.
CEOs define culture for an organization, but bosses model the behaviors that bring culture to life. Specifically, bosses translate ideals into action and help teams understand how their work supports a larger purpose.
However, as businesses shift to new ways of working, bosses must change how they fulfill this responsibility. When employees are working remotely, for instance, bosses need new tools and tactics for rallying teams around shared values or beliefs. Similarly, bosses need different strategies to keep teams connected to the company culture when they’re not in the office. In some cases, bosses will need to rely on digital means to recognize and reward behaviors that reinforce culture.
Regardless of an organization’s workplace model, bosses need to change how they manage people and maintain performance. As workplaces and workstyles have evolved, accountability measures have become more complex. To keep employees accountable in a changing environment, bosses need to move seamlessly between three roles: leader, coach and manager.
The boss as a leader: As a leader, the boss needs to connect the team’s work to the organization’s goals. They must set the vision and direction for the workgroup, providing clear expectations for how individuals and teams contribute to overarching objectives.
The boss as a coach: As a coach, the boss must empower individuals and teams to excel. This includes working with people to develop their skills, enhance their capabilities and realize their potential.
The boss as a manager: As a manager, the boss is responsible for individual and team performance. They must clearly define roles, activities and responsibilities, set standards and grade performance. They must establish goals, and then hold people accountable for the activities and results needed to achieve those goals.
Learn more about building better bosses
In these extraordinary times, your organization needs extraordinary bosses. Download our new report, Leadership Development: Building Better Bosses, to gain additional insights on how to train and develop bosses for an evolving workplace. The report features the latest survey results from Vistage Research along with expert advice from members of the Vistage community.